Friday 4th July 3:00 p.m. Vancouver
Happy Independence Day, America!
It'll be a day of big celebrations in the States I bet. Eleven years ago I was in Los Angeles for the 4th of July and what a day it was. A few of us Aussies 'borrowed' the hostel van, bought a keg from the local convenience store, and spent the afternoon doing slow laps up and down Melrose Avenue and Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards making a public nuisance of ourselves. By the time we tired of whistling at girls and flashing our bottoms at other motorists, the keg was running low anyway, so we headed back to the hostel for more supplies. Of course nowadays I'm much more mature....
Jen, another reader from Vancouver had contacted me, and invited me over for dinner. Incredibly, she lives just two blocks from Gail's, so I walked over to her apartment last night. Jen is what's known as a 'doula', which is not a term I was familiar with. In a nutshell, a doula helps pregnant women before and after the birth of their baby, as well as accompanying during delivery. I guess it's a far more complex role than what I just described, but that's the best I can do in one sentence. If you want to know more about the work of a doula *funny name* have a look at Jen's home page, and I'll get on with my story.

Jen had her Japanese friend Saori spelling? staying with her, so we three had plenty of stories to swap, and actually had lots in common. Jen barbecued up a storm on the 17th floor deck of her apartment building. We had fresh salmon steaks- wild salmon, not farm salmon; that's important- with barbecued eggplant, capsicum and potato, and Jen had stocked up with a couple of types of Canadaian beer for me to try. The view from the northwest facing deck was beautiful in the evening and at ten o'clock when the sun had finally set, we retired back inside. It was almost two o'clock in the morning when Jen finally decided she should get some sleep. I walked home to find Gail and Christa slightly the worse for wear due to Christa's heavy handedness at home cocktail mixing.

Jen, Saori, and myself enjoying fresh wild salmon barbecued on the deck, seventeen floors up One beluga whale mug, as ordered

This morning I completed my first challenge. If you check out my Challenge Steve page, you'll see I received a challenge yesterday to find and purchase a very particular coffee mug from the Vancouver Aquarium gift shop. Ironically, my long walk yesterday morning took me almost right past the aquarium but I hadn't even noticed it. The reader Rosemary, had picked up an orca mug from this aquarium on her visit to Vancouver, but has since wished she had also bought the beluga whale mug. Rosemary was very generous with her challenge, so along comes Steve to save the day and a beluga mug is on the way to Florida as we speak.

Vancouver is home to a rather unique building, and I wanted to see it for myself. It is the Sam Kee building on the edge of Chinatown. In 1926, businessman Chang Toy had most of his land resumed by the council when Pender Street was widened. He was left with a narrow strip of land, extending the full length of the city block. Toy's neighbour understandably expected to pick up the useless strip of land for a bargain price, but ol' Chang thumbed his nose at all of them, when he built a two storey buiding on the strip, just 1.8 metres wide. It has been accepted in to the Guiness Book of Records as the worlds' skinniest office building, and in the short time that I was there, at least half a dozen other 'tourists' had their photo taken with arms outstretched at the end of the comical building. Let's hear it for Chang Toy!

The Sam Kee building, at 1.8 metres wide, is the world's skinniest office building! Tent city in downtown Vancouver, protesting against the government's apparent double standards

On my way to the post office to send out prizes to the latest competition winners, I saw a heap of tents pitched in a small park. Some sort of festival, perhaps? No, they're apparently homeless people who have decided to make themselves very conspicuous as a protest against Vancouver's successful Olympic bid. How is it, they ask, that the government has been forced to cut back so heavily on social housing, public health and welfare, when they can then come up with billions of dollars to spend on a sporting event? I can understand their frustrations, but I think I'll keep out of the debate.

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